Why the old Murray Bridge needs a $36 million fix

The 1879 road bridge risked being closed to traffic within 10 years, prior to the recent state budget.

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It has stood for 142 years, but without a bit of work, it wasn’t going to last much longer.

In fact, cars and trucks would have been banned from the old Murray Bridge within 10 years if the state government hadn’t stepped in, Infrastructure and Transport Minister Corey Wingard said on Tuesday.

“The experts tell me that within a decade, if nothing was done, it wouldn’t be able to keep bearing the load it does, so you couldn’t have vehicles going over it,” he said.

“That would have been devastating for the community.

“It would have been a pedestrian bridge, at the end of the day, if this work wasn’t done.”

The government set aside $36 million to fix the bridge in its 2021 budget.

The money will be used to strengthen the piers which support it, and to improve drainage and lighting on its roadway, over the next two years.

That work should extend the bridge’s life into the 2060s.

Most of the work will be undertaken in 2022-23.

By comparison, the work currently being done on the bridge had cost about $850,000, Mr Wingard said.

Replacing the bridge or building a new one alongside it had never been considerations, he said, given its historic and symbolic importance.

The city of Murray Bridge took its current name from the old road bridge in 1924.

“There are bigger-picture projects that we are looking at, but this was a very urgent need that we needed to act on,” Mr Wingard said.

One such bigger-picture project is the duplication of the Swanport Bridge on the South Eastern Freeway,

The state and federal governments will spend $5 million building a business case for the project over the next 18 months.

Perhaps the most famous photo from Murray Bridge’s early history, showing the bridge’s builders taking a break in 1876. Photo: Samuel White Sweet/State Library of South Australia (PRG-742-5-179).